A recent report from The New York Times took an expansive look at the monumental carving out in recent years of downtown San Francisco due to the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent move by the major tech conglomerates to allow their employees to work from for the vast majority – if not entirely – of their work weeks.
Entitled “What Comes Next for the Most Empty Downtown in America,” the piece looked at was once “a picture of what it meant for a city to be economically successful. Take the five-minute jaunt from the office building at 140 New Montgomery Street to a line-out-the-door salad shop nearby. The 26-story building, an Art Deco landmark that was once the tallest in the city, began its life as the headquarters for the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company. Decades later, it served as the home of the local search company Yelp. The nearby salad store was part of a fast-growing chain called Mixt.”
“Imagine a forest where an entire species suddenly disappears,” said Tracy Hadden Loh, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies urban real estate. “It disrupts the whole ecosystem and produces a lot of chaos. The same thing is happening in downtowns,” with companies switching to slogans like “headquartered in the cloud.” Office buildings are at about 40 percent of their prepandemic occupancy, while the vacancy rate has jumped to 24 percent from 5 percent since 2019, NYT reported.
Salad and sandwich lovers in Mill Valley know MIXT as one of the latest additions to the slate of fantastic food in Mill Valley, with the salad juggernaut joining Mamahuhu, Michelin-starred chef Brandon Jew’s more casual Chinese-American restaurant and his first move outside of San Francisco, at 173 Throckmorton Ave., the former home of another renowned business, Mill Valley natives Justin and Tyler Catalana’s Mill Valley Beerworks, which they opened in 2010 and grew over time to become the Fort Point Beer Company.
As suburban towns like ours have experienced in recent years given the vast changes in downtown San Francisco, Mill Valley has benefited from conditions that compelled eateries like Mamahuhu and MIXT to open here when they might not have considered doing so before. For example, one of Mixt’s managers, Maria Cerros-Mercado, 35, lives in San Francisco and used to walk downtown for work but now manages the Mixt branch in Mill Valley.
Another recent New York Times‘ report indicates that the trend – more diversified options available in smaller towns and cities outside metropolitan areas – might continue. “The stereotype of the suburbs as homogeneous, white-picket-fence communities is long outdated, and as people move there from cities, they are bringing their appetite for more sophisticated, varied menus,” the Times reported.
“While this growth predated the pandemic, the past two years and the expansion of work-from-home culture have accelerated the once-gradual shift, Hyojung Lee, an assistant professor of housing and property management at Virginia Tech University, told the Times.
Silverglide told the Times that she is fairly confident that Mixt’s “neighborhood locations,” like the Mill Valley one, will drive the business’s expansion.
Here’s hoping our foodie culture continues to incubate and attract eateries across a broader landscape of cuisines.
Tell us in the comments who you’d like to see open a location – food, retail or experiential – in the 94941!